Since 1995, the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada has hosted large-scale annual conferences on topics that matter to Canadians and are relevant to current public policy concerns. Past conferences have featured in-depth discussions on topics such as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, water and the environment, urban development, immigration policies, and the health care system. Designed to bridge academic research and public opinion, the events raise provocative questions and encourage open and nonpartisan dialogue, attracting a wide range of participants along with significant press coverage.
Please note that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our 25th anniversary conference is scheduled for October 2021. Sign up for MISC's newsletter to receive more information about upcoming events and conferences.
See below for more information on previous conferences, including programs, videos, photos, and other media.
2019 - Federalism & Canada's Shifting Political Landscape /Le fédéralisme & l'évolution du paysage politique au Canada
For its 24th Annual Conference, MISC and organizing partner, the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP) brought together an exceptionally diverse group of experts (politicians, economists, academics and industry professionals) to debate the current issues facing Canadians and how they relate to federalism and public policy.
The objective of the conference was to improve our understanding of how recent and forthcoming provincial elections and other ongoing political trends are likely to impact federalism, intergovernmental relations and public policy in Canada. More specifically, the conference addressed the following questions: First, how are recent and forthcoming elections in provinces like Alberta, BC, Ontario, and Quebec and related political trends likely to impact debates over crucial policy issues ranging from trade, energy policy, and environmental protection to immigration, and indigenous affairs? Second, how will public opinion and the media shape these debates and, more broadly, the future of Canadian federalism? Third, what is the potential impact of these intergovernmental debates on the next federal elections and public policy in Canada?
The Conference took place over two days on March 21 & 22, at the McGill faculty Club. The Conference featured 8 panels as well as a presentation of the results of a survey and concluded with a keynote presentation. MISC had the pleasure of hosting over 150 members of the public, and 35 speakers.
For our 2018 conference, the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada turned its focus to a topic that has had plenty of history in Canada: tax fairness.
Tensions around tax fairness have always provoked political engagement and lively protest. Such tensions account for some of our nation’s best and worst moments of social solidarity and mutual hostility. On the centenary of income tax in Canada—first collected in 1918—we took the opportunity to explore what “fairness” truly means. Is it a technical question or a philosophical one? Is it best resolved by statisticians or lawyers? How to subject such complicated questions to democratic accountability?
The conference opened with a screening and discussion of the critically acclaimed documentary, The Price We Pay. Inspired the book La Crise fiscale qui vient, authored by the film's co-writer and tax specialist Brigitte Alepin, the documentary shed light on the increasingly alarming problem of tax havens. Over the course of two days, members of the public and experts from across various academic and professional disciplines weighed in on the debate of tax fairness. Speakers included Kevin Page, Kathleen Lahey, Luc Godbout, Allison Christians, Chelsea Vowel, David Paul, and many others.
2017 - Canadian Exceptionalism: Are we good or are we lucky? / L’exceptionnalisme canadien: Sommes-nous bons ou sommes-nous chanceux?
In celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary, MISC held its 22nd annual conference on the theme of immigration and multiculturalism. Government officials, journalists, and scholars from various fields were brought together to explore whether Canada's perspectives are indeed unique and if so, whether this is a matter of history, geography, or circumstance, or more so dependent on the nation's policies, institutions, or character.
The two-day conference began with a presentation of fresh data from a nation-wide poll on Canadian attitudes towards immigrants, and concluded with a roundtable discussion. Speakers included the Honourable Michelle Rempel, Kathleen Weil, Bob Rae, Senator Ratna Omidvar, and more.
MISC's 2016 Annual Conference, "Canada on the Global Stage", brought together government officials, activists, diplomats, scholars, and experts to tackle the question of Canada’s role in the world: after a decade of the Stephen Harper government and an ongoing rush of developments on the international stage, would our new political leaders restore an earlier vision of Canadian foreign policy or develop a new one corresponding to a changed world? How should Canada position itself internationally? Who are our natural allies? What is the place of middle-powers like Canada in the world’s present-day political geography?
The Honourable Tony Clement, Hélène Laverdière, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Stephen J. Toope, and Kathryn White were among the many speakers and panelists who shared their insights in response the above questions.
With increasing globalization and the continuous growth of the world's population, urban and city planning has increasingly become the centre of the policy agenda - and Canada is no exception. MISC's 2015 annual conference, The Cities We Need, aimed to shed light on topics of urban living such as infrastructure, sustainability, local governance, and night life, particularly in the Canadian context.
On one hand, Canadian cities seem better than any other level of government at spurring citizen engagement, harnessing technological innovation and devising creative responses to problems. On the other, key Canadian cities have faced major crises of governance in recent years. Canada’s constitutional arrangements give provinces ultimate control over the status of cities, with effects that many deride but no one seems able to change. How are our cities are reinventing themselves and, in turn, reinventing what it means to be Canadian? What can we do to make our cities more equitable, sustainable and participatory?
Urban experts from all over the world shared their thoughts on the above questions, including a panel of 5 mayors from across the country (Bonnie Crombie, Mark Heyck, Dan Mathieson, Mike Savage, and Nathalie Simon, Chateauguay).
Organized in partnership with the University of Alberta, MISC's 2014 annual conference brought together representatives all of Canada’s regions to discuss and debate the role of oil and energy in shaping social, cultural, and political life in Canada's present and future.
One of the key developments shaping social and political debate in Canada in the twenty-first century has been the country’s emergence as an energy superpower. The confluence of new technologies and price per barrel has made it profitable to excavate the oil sands, while a process known as ‘fracking’ has opened up access to new, large reservoirs of shale gas. With oil and gas come money, power, and a myriad of other issues to address. As the nation's citizens become more aware of our reliance on petrocarbons and the impact of petrocultures on the environment, all of us must grapple with what the effects may mean for how we live today and how we might live in the future.
Speakers included Tzeporah Berman (Executive Director and Co-founder of PowerUp Canada and Co-founder and Campaign Director of ForestEthics), David Dufresne (filmmaker, Fort McMoney), Steven Guilbeault (founder, Equiterre), Ezra Levant (author, Ethical Oil: The Case for Canada's Oil Sands), and Eriel Deranger (Communications Coordinator, Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation).
MISC's 2013 annual conference, "Lifting Off and Flying High", was organized to examine what it means to have a career in Canada in the culture & entertainment, technology, and sports industries. Is Canada capable of supporting creative people in these sectors through all career phases, from lift-off through to mid-career, and onwards? Do we offer the incubators, support systems, and long-range opportunities necessary to sustain achievement over a life-time?
Speakers included musicians Patrick Watson and Béatrice Martin (Coeur de pirate), hockey greats Ken Dryden and Georges Laraque, Research in Motion co-founder Jim Balsillie, screenwriters Len Blum and Kevin Tierney, film director Deborah Chow, film producer Jennifer Jonas, Aboriginal actress Tantoo Cardinal, Olympians Jennifer Heil, Madeleine Williams, Danièle Sauvageau, Ross Rebagliati and Richard Pound, Giller Prize Founder Jack Rabinovitch, and many, many, more.
From the introduction of the federal government’s omnibus crime bill to the rise of new forms of urban political protest, policing and justice was at the centre of public attention during MISC's 2012 annual conference, which looked at crucial issues associated with crime, policing and justice in Canada. A wide range of law practitioners, journalists, and filmmakers were gathered together to discuss various topics, including the relationships between popular media and policing, protest movements, and sentencing.
Speakers included the Honourable Patrick Healy, the Honourable Robert Nicholson, the Honourable Jean-Marc Fournier, Yves Boisvert, Jacques Duchesneau, Marlene Jennings, Josh Freed, Alan Zweig, David Eby, and Howard Sapers.
For its 2011 annual conference, the MISC turned its focus to the Canada - U.S. relationship. The conference included a series of conversations between Canadian and American counterparts, allowing attendees a unique perspective into how decisions involving the two countries are made, what outside interests may influence policy, and the complexities and challenges of managing the unique, bi-national relationship.
Speakers included His Excellency the Right Honourable David L. Johnston, Honorable James A. Baker, Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, Honourable James Flaherty, Ambassador Gary Doer, Ambassador David Jacobson, Honourable Frank McKenna, Sean Finn, Honourable Jean Charest, and David Biette.
The 2010 annual conference focused on issues and questions as they relate to Canadian water policies: "What are the biggest water issues that Canada will face over the next 10-25 years? How would full-cost pricing or full-value pricing of water promote technological and institutional innovation and conservation? What are the positions of stakeholders such as industry, universities and NGOs on water governance?" Amidst growing concerns about the state of Canadian water, the goal of this conference was to promote a pan-Canadian strategy for the management of Canadian water resources.
To help answer these questions, MISC reached across professional and disciplinary boundaries, and invited some of the most prominent Canadian and foreign experts to speak. Panellists and keynote speakers were asked to assess Canadian water policies and to come forward with new recommendations for the management of Canadian water resources. Participants included the Honourable Jim Prentice, the Honourable Charlene Johnson, Lili‐Anna Pereša, Zafar Adeel, David Schindler, Karen Bakker, and Margaret Catley-Carlson.
For the MISC's 2009 annual conference, we turned our focus to crucial issues associated with public policy in Canada. The theme of the conference stems from a larger research agenda that has been looking at the twin challenges of innovation and implementation in policy-making. The goal for this year's event was to engage a broad cross-section of academics and policy makers to examine and evaluate the policy-making process itself, particularly in regard to the challenges of responding to crises.
Speakers included The Right Honourable Joe Clark, Honourable James M. Flaherty, Bruce Doern, Sharon Manson Singer, Kevin Lynch, Philippe Couillard, Mary Simon, Nik Nanos, and Alain Dubuc.
Over two and a half days, MISC's 2008 annual conference asked whether it makes sense to speak of a common North American culture. If Canada, the United States and Mexico share a continent, do they also share cultural values, tastes and preoccupations? Are there features of Canadian culture which ensure the smooth passage of our music, media, literature, humour and other forms of expression across the broader cultural space of North America? Or do differences of language, population and resources continue to act as barriers, limiting the success of Canadian culture elsewhere on the continent?
Speakers included Ambassador David Wilkins, Allan Gotlieb, Carlos Monsiváis, Émile Martel, Fernando Castaños, John Cruickshank, Linda Leith, Michel Lafleur, and Gilberto Gil who presented a special talk on digital culture.
From February 14-16th, 2007, the Institute held its 12th annual conference entitled "The Charter @ 25". The event assembled a broad cross-section of people who presented unique insights into the changes that have been effected by the Charter and what its future might hold. As much of a "cerebration" as well as a celebration of the charter's 25th anniversary, the conference offered a reflection on the past, an analysis of the present, and an anticipation of future developments.
Speakers included The Honourable Irwin Cotler, the Right Honourable Joe Clark, Thomas S. Axworthy, Louis Bernard, Lynn McDonald, the Honourable Barry L. Strayer, Alan Borovoy, Jean-François Gaudreault-DesBiens, Ian Brodie, Jennifer Stoddart, and Gil Rémillard.
Amidst growing concerns among Canadians about health, security, trade, and food consumer choices, the overarching theme of MISC's 2006 annual conference was Canadian food policy and practice. And what better backdrop for a discussion of dietary issues than Montréal, a city well-known for its strong culinary culture?
Over two and a half days, academics, government officials, agricultural producers, retailers, and restaurateurs gathered around the table in order to examine pressing issues on the Canadian food scene, from field to fork. The goal of the conference was to identify specific problems in Canadian food policy and practice, and to propose solutions in order to enhance the quality, affordability and environmental sustainability of our collective food choices.
Speakers included David McMillan, Frédéric Morin, Annalisa King, Ricardo Larrivée, Robert Beauchemin, Bob Friesen, Guy Laframboise, Leonard J. Edwards, Diane Finegood, Hugh Maynard, and Louise Lambert-Lagacé.
The McGill Institute for the Study of Canada celebrated its tenth anniversary by hosting a major conference on the theme of Canada in the World. Within the context of emerging global threats and new international opportunities, the 2005 annual conference provided a forum through which Canadians could come together to review their presence and action in the world.
Speakers included the Honourable Pierre S. Pettigrew, Thomas S. Axworthy, Ted Moses, Marie Bernard-Meunier, Ambassador Paul Cellucci, David Malone, Richard Pound, Richard Giguère, Karsten Voigt, Jean-Pierre Kingsley.
What role do urban centres play in our society, and what challenges do they face? How might cities best be organized to serve multiple interests? How can different levels of government and social actors contribute to the well-being of cities? The 2004 annual conference looked to provide insight on questions of urban politics, local governance, as well as innovative solutions for cities.
Speakers included Her Excellency The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, the Honourable Jack Layton, Pierre Boivin, David Miller, Tom Carter, Benoît Labonté, Michèle Thibodeau-de Guire, the Honourable John Godfrey, Gil Rémillard, and Jacques Benard.
MISC's 2003 annual conference, "Who Controls Canada's Media?", examined the values we wish to have promoted in our media, in terms of the structure of the industry and of questions of access to Canadian content. How can we ensure that Canadian stories - be they news, documentary or fictionalized accounts - reach Canadian citizens? And how can we ensure that Canadians will receive a diverse views of their nation reflecting the world in which they live?
Among the speakers who addressed the above questions were Her Excellency The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Peter Mansbridge, Clifford Lincoln, Terry Mosher, Paule Beaugrand-Champagne, Richard Nadeau, Donna Logan, and Raja Khanna.
The 2003 annual conference provided a forum whereby a wide cross-section of stakeholders, including the general public, could discuss and learn more about the complexities of our health care system and its reform. All segments of the political, economic and social landscape actively contributed to the dialogue, allowing for an honest public discussion of alternative public-policy solutions.
Speakers included the Honourable Anne McLellan, André Picard, June Callwood, Kieke Okma, André-Pierre Contandriopoulos, Pierre Tousignant, and Michael Decter.
2000 - Citizenship 2020: Assuming Our Responsibility for the Future (click for program)
1999 - Giving the Past a Future (click for program)
1998 - The Future Is Ours: Focus on Canadian Youth
1997 - Forging a New Relationship
1996 - Our Society in the Next Millennium
1995 - A Preview of Our Year of Choice